CHILD PROTECTION AND SOCIAL WORK IN J&K

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The State of Jammu and Kashmir has large number of children who are the worst sufferers of poverty, backwardness, violence, natural calamities and other disadvantages. There are more than 2lakh children who are the victims of violence in the state. There are a considerable number of children who are affected by child labour, child prostitution, human trafficking, poverty, illiteracy, ill health, malnutrition, fatal diseases and so on. The state does not have a regional commission for child rights protection due to certain inherent constitutional constraints.
The state has also failed to protect children from all forms of violence and deprivations according to recent studies. There are also a sizable chunk of children who have become orphans due to armed conflict in the state. Child protection systems respond to children who have suffered or are likely to suffer significant harm as the result of abuse and neglect. The Jammu and Kashmir government have jurisdiction over the provision of child protection services with legislative, policy and practice frameworks differing across the country. While most social workers practice within a legislative framework, the legislative policy and practice frameworks for statutory or tertiary-level child protection social workers are particularly complex in Jammu and Kashmir.
Furthermore, the phenomenon of child abuse and neglect is itself complex; socially, psychologically and environmentally. Working in this role is also emotionally demanding and on some rare occasions can be dangerous for social workers in conflict ridden society of J&K. Social workers report being acutely conscious that the issues are so complex that agencies working alone are generally ineffective in achieving good outcomes and hence a collaborative approach is essential. This collaboration should not only be across related child protection agencies, but should include schools and pre-schools, general practitioners, police, and child care facilities, to mention just a few. Importantly, collaboration should involve the immediate and extended family and significant others.
It should be acknowledged that regardless of collaboration, due to the nature of the problems being addressed, the outcomes achieved are frequently not universally considered to be ‘good’ outcomes. Explicit in most child protection work is a tension between support of the child and the family and the need to set boundaries for family behaviours that may lead to serious harm for a child. Social workers work with other professionals across government and non-government service providers, to develop policy, and to design and deliver services to children involved with the child protection system. This can mean providing alternative, child-focused and family inclusive care arrangements to families who require assistance to continue to care for their children. It can also involve delivering and supporting alternative care arrangements for children who are unable to safely remain in or return to their parents’ care. These interventions require high-level communication skills in emotionally charged and highly complex and contested situations. Using statutory authority to safeguard children and encourage change is a crucial part of the role. To undertake such complex work, social workers should be providing and receiving appropriate social work supervision which encourages reflective practice and ongoing professional development. There are about 40% children representing the population of Jammu and Kashmir.
A good number of children representing socially and educationally backward sections of the society are not blessed with adequate educational, healthcare services, nutrition facilities and services in the state. The past studies have highlighted the plight of the children of Jammu and Kashmir over a period of time. The instances of child abuse and violation of child rights are increasing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir which is known for highest number of interrogation and torture centres. Scholars and activists have condemned the state government which has proved apathetic to the problems of children in Jammu and Kashmir who have suffered due to continued conflict of interest. Their increasing number has corrupted and de-generated social life in the state, according to empirical evidence.
The concept of Juvenile Justice is still in its infancy stage in J&K as the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) has just started working at different levels in the state .Child welfare workers are need of the hour in our Conflict torn State. Child welfare social workers are responsible for investigating allegations of abuse, neglect, and maltreatment to locate children with poor living conditions. They look for warning signs when interviewing guardians, teachers, and school psychologists and inspecting the child’s home. For youth at low risk, social workers will work closely with the family to remedy problems with a detailed intervention plan. For example, the child welfare social worker may refer a struggling single parent to government assistance programs. They’ll continue making periodic home visits to ascertain whether progress is occurring. Efforts are made to keep children with their natural parents, but social workers may file for protective custody in high-risk situations. In State of J&K we are looking for a sustainable growth of Child Social welfare in order to protect the future of our Children and for that a strong implementation of the Integrated Child Protection Scheme at the grass roots provides a strong answer.
(Holding a post graduate degree in Law, the author is Legal cum Probationary Officer with the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), J&K Government. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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